Crime

In federal lawsuit, man says Fayette sheriff won't return seized guns

A man filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in an attempt to get back guns that he says the Fayette County sheriff's department seized from him nearly three years ago.

Eric Laubis of Lexington claims in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky that the sheriff's department took 10 guns — including rifles, a shotgun and an 1860 Derringer handgun — from his home on June 14, 2010, when a domestic violence order was granted against him.

The DVO was dismissed on Dec. 15, 2010, but Laubis says in the lawsuit that he has been unable to get the sheriff's department to release the guns.

Sheriff Kathy Witt is named as the defendant in the lawsuit.

Mjr. Jay Pittman, public information officer for the sheriff's office, said late Tuesday that Witt had not seen the lawsuit and did not have any comment on it.

According to Laubis' complaint, he contacted the sheriff's department the day after the DVO was dismissed and talked to Deputy Chris Tudor, who he says told him that "it would take a year or two for his guns to be released."

Tudor was charged in May 2012 with official misconduct — a misdemeanor — after being accused of writing a false report to cover up for some missing guns that had been confiscated by the sheriff's department in domestic violence cases.

Tudor entered an Alford plea and paid a $404 fine in December. When defendants enter an Alford plea, they do not admit guilt but acknowledge that there is enough evidence to convict them.

Two other sheriff's department employees resigned and were sentenced to house arrest and probation last year, after entering Alford pleas in cases involving firearms seized by the sheriff's department.

Former Sgt. Chester "Merle" McDaniel was convicted of two felony counts of theft of a firearm and one misdemeanor count of first-degree official misconduct. Former Sgt. William Beers was convicted of attempted theft and official misconduct, both misdemeanors.

Laubis said he met with Witt after hearing of those cases, but was told then and on subsequent occasions by sheriff's department employees that "the matter was under investigation."

An agreed order issued Jan. 14 in Fayette Family Court orders that Laubis' firearms be returned.

Laubis says in the lawsuit that Witt told him the sheriff's department "could keep his guns regardless of any court order because of the Lautenberg Amendment."

That legislation — sponsored in 1996 by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who died Monday — prohibits people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from having guns.

Laubis states in the court documents that he has never been convicted of a felony or of misdemeanor domestic violence.

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